I often get the question “How long did it take you to paint this?” This is actually a complicated question.
Getting the brush off
If you are talking about how much time I was actually applying paint to the paper, it may be a relatively short time. There are some paintings which get painted in a single session over two or three hours. More often paintings involve many separate sessions. Some sessions are only minutes and others may be hours.
But I don’t regard the time to create a painting to be solely the amount of time that a brush touches the paper. Otherwise, the answer would always be X number of hours.
Farm to table
If you are talking about the time lapse between thinking of doing a specific painting and when it is done, that may be a very long time. Ideas need to germinate and there may be competing ideas. There may be several attempts to get the painting right and actual painting time may include dozens of bursts. But this doesn’t seem to be the answer since a painting may sit against the wall while other tasks or paintings take priority or are more interesting in the moment. (I often have multiple art works in progress.)
So what really goes into to creating a painting?
First there is getting inspired and then finding the material – such as driving around and photographing (I usually work from photos). Sometimes I just see something interesting and take a photo; other times I am looking for a specific subject.
Then I need to choose among subjects and for that subject, choose from all of the photos that I have of the scene.
Think before you ink
Now it is time to design the painting. This can involve many different methodologies. I may use the computer and crop and rearrange. Sometimes I print out a copy and actually cut out shapes and rearrange them on paper.
Thumbnail or small sketches are used to decide what to emphasize, and what to leave out and to determine light and dark areas. The relative dimensions of the painting is determined at this point.
Give us those Nice Bright colors
Sometimes I use crayons to help decide a color scheme or I may just paint color swatches on a scrap paper to help decide color combinations. Many times, just making a mental note is enough.
Occasionally I make a quarter size painting to check out the composition.
Transfer station –ticket to ride
Depending on the subject matter, I make a larger or full size drawing. A medium size drawing can be transferred by using a projector. Full size drawings are moved to the painting surface with transfer paper (similar to how carbon paper works).
Then the actual painting process. Whee!
A nearly finished painting is put aside and then reviewed later. Colors may change as they dry and looking at the painting at different times of day is helpful. Sometimes I get other artists to check it out and make suggestions. So there may be a few changes still to be done.
Touch ups if needed and a final review and then the painting is signed.
Of course, there are times when the final product does not quite work. There are some paintings that I have attempted three or four times before getting it good enough. In some of those cases, it may be months later before I find the effort lacking and do a newer, better version.
Promotion and packaging
A finished work is photographed and put onto the web site. I may promote the painting in a newsletter or Facebook post.
The art also needs to be matted and framed.
I often apply to shows and look for locations that will display it. The more exposure, the greater the chance that the right owner will see it and finish my time and efforts with the painting.
I am not sure what the asker wants or expects to. In truth, sometimes a piece of art just flows out fully formed and sometimes it is constructed like a building. But what is important is whether you like it and how you respond to it.